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Guides Best CPUs To Buy In 2021 for Every Budget

Best CPUs To Buy In 2021 for Every Budget

No matter what you need a new processor for we got your back. Today, we are taking a look at the BEST CPUs to Buy in 2021.
Avatar for Andy Cresswell

If you’e a PC gamer, your computers graphics card does most of the work but, you still need a decent CPU that is fast enough to keep up with it and avoid any potential bottlenecks; otherwise, you are going to be left struggling for performance when you need it most.

Here I have listed the best CPUs you can buy in 2021 at different price points to help you pick the best option for yourself.

Best CPU for Gaming AM4
AM4 is a great all-round platform

Note: if you are only interested in gaming, then higher clock speeds will matter more than higher core counts. But if you want to do some content creation, then the higher core count is going to come in handy.


Best High-Performance CPUs

If you are looking for the best high-performance CPUs that money can buy, then the following are two options are solid choices.

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

  • 16 Cores / 32 Threads
  • Clock speed: 3.4ghz
  • Turbo Clock speed: 4.9ghz
  • Socket: AM4
  • Cache: 72mb
Top Pick: AMD Ryzen 9 5950X Processor

Pros

  • Great for Video Editing
  • High core count
  • Power efficient
  • PCIe 4.0 support

Cons

  • Low clock speed makes other choices better for gaming

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The AMD Ryzen 9 5950X is the top-of-the-line CPU that is the best in its class. However, this CPU comes with 16 cores and 32 threads which, makes it overkill for gaming. That is why we recommend this CPU to consumers that are not only interested in gaming but content creation as well, as that is where the numerous cores and threads are going to outshine the competition.

Even with 16 cores and 32 threads, the clock speed is pretty high at 3.4 GHz base and 4.9 GHz boost but, this CPU does not come with a cooler out of the box meaning you will have to source an aftermarket cooler yourself. This CPU is known for pumping out some heat. If you plan on overclocking this high-end cpu you are going to need a watercooling loop.

At $799, this is not a cheap CPU, but it is worth it, keeping in mind that even the top-of-the-line intel i9-11900K has 8 cores and 16 threads. This means that you are paying $300 for 8 more cores and 16 more threads. That is not a bad deal at all. It is safe to say that the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X is in a class of its own if content creation and video editing is your thing.

A TDP of 105W is very power efficient and supports PCIe 4.0, so you can use your Gen 4 SSDs and supported graphics cards to get the fastest possible read / write speeds.


AMD Ryzen 7 5800X

  • 8 Cores / 16 Threads
  • Clock speed: 3.8ghz
  • Clock speed: 4.5ghz
  • Socket: AM4
  • Cache: 36mb
AMD Ryzen 7 5800x
High end CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 5800x

Pros

  • Best CPU Choice for PC Gaming
  • Higher clock speed than 5950x
  • PCIe 4.0 support

Cons

  • Price per core is high without discounts

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The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X is a toned-down variant that features 8 cores, 16 threads and a much lower price tag of $449. You can even get it at a discounted price of around $390 from some retailers, making it even more tempting.

One of the issues that people have with this CPU is the price per core. At MSRP, the cost per core is even higher than the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, so it made sense for consumers to opt for the higher-end AMD Ryzen 9 5950X or the cheaper AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. But if you can get this CPU for $390, then that solves the issue.

The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X has the same 105W TDP and is exceedingly power-efficient, just like its bigger brother. It has a base clock speed of 3.8 GHz and can boost it to 4.5 GHz. It also supports PCIe 4.0.

The competing Intel i9-11900K has a higher clock speed, but the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X has a lower TDP and double the cache which almost makes up for the core clock speed deficiency. Not to mention the much lower price tag of $449 as compared to $610. You can find the Intel i9-11900K at a discounted price of around $550, but that still is more expensive, keeping in mind that you can get the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X at a discounted price of about $390.

The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X beats the Intel i9-11900K in Cinebench R23, Cinebench R20 and V-Ray benchmarks at stock speeds. While the Intel CPU does have a slight edge when overclocked to 5.1 GHz, it is not significant and not worth the additional cost of the CPU, not to mention the extra power consumption.

When it comes to gaming, the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X is a beast, and we would recommend pairing it with something like the Nvidia RTX 3080 or AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT.


Best Overall CPUs

If you are interested in the best overall value, which includes a combination of cores, clock speed and price to performance, then the following are the CPUs that we can recommend.

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

  • 6 Cores / 12 Threads
  • Clock speed: 3.7ghz
  • Clock speed: 4.6ghz
  • Socket: AM4
  • Cache: 35mb
AMD Ryzen 5 5600x
Ryzen 5 5600x - Best Overall CPU

Pros

  • Best Mid-range Gaming CPU
  • Zen 3 Architecture

Cons

  • Only 6 cores

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The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is one of the best overall CPUs that we can recommend that features 6 cores and 12 threads, with a base clock speed of 3.7 GHz and a boost clock speed of 4.6 GHz. In addition, the CPU has 32MB of L3 cache, which is much higher than the Intel Core i5-11600K and a 65W TDP. The CPU is based on the 7nm process and the Zen 3 architecture, the same as the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X.

The MSRP of the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is $300, but you can find it at a discounted price of around $288. When it comes to performance, both CPU trade blows with each other in tests such as Cinebench R23 and R20. However, the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X remains consistently ahead in V-Ray Benchmark.

Both the CPUs perform similarly in gaming benchmarks in games such as Cyberpunk 2077, Red Dead Redemption, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at 1080p. 1440p and 4K.

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X does come with the AMD Wraith Stealth cooler out of the box, which is pretty decent, but if you are interested in overclocking, you will need something better.


Intel Core i5-11600K

  • 16 Cores / 32 Threads
  • Clock speed: 3.9ghz
  • Turbo Clock speed: 4.9ghz
  • Socket: LGA1200
  • Cache: 12mb
Intel Core i5 11600k rocket lake
Intel Core i5 11600k

Pros

  • Alternative Gaming CPU Choice
  • Blazing Fast Core Clock Speed

Cons

  • Pricey compared to the competition

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The Intel Core i5-11600K is also one of the best overall CPUs you can buy right now, and trades blows with the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. It also has 6 cores and 12 threads but a lower cache of 12MB compared to 32MB on the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. It has a higher TDP of 125W, but it is cheaper and has a higher clock speed. The CPU has a base clock speed of 3.9GHz and can boost to 4.9 GHz. This is an unlocked CPU, so you can overclock it to run even faster with the proper cooling. The CPU is available for $269, which makes it a very tempting option.

The Intel Core i5-11600K is a bargain and the option that we would recommend if you are interested in gaming, provided that the price of the CPU is $269 or lower. However, something to consider is that the Intel Core i5-11600K does not come with a cooler out of the box, so you will need to buy one separately to use it.


Best Mid-Range CPUs

If you are interested in a mid-range PC build, something to pair with the RTX 3060 Ti or AMD Radeon 5700 XT, then the following is what we recommend:

Intel Core i5-11400F

  • 16 Cores / 32 Threads
  • Clock speed: 2.6ghz
  • Turbo Clock speed: 4.4ghz
  • Socket: LGA1200
  • Cache: 12mb
Intel Core i5 11400f
Best Mid-range: Intel Core i5-11400F

Pros

  • Great Choice for Video Editing
  • 16 Cores and 32 Threads

Cons

  • No integrated graphics
  • Bad gaming choice due to low core frequency

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If the price to performance or best bang for the buck is your thing, then the Intel Core i5-11400 is a unique option. This CPU does not come with integrated graphics, which reduces the cost a bit. However, that should not bother you as you will use a dedicated graphics card for gaming anyway.

The CPU comes with 6 cores and 12 threads, so you get 6 more threads compared to the older generation 9400F. It has a base clock speed of 2.60 GHz and can boost to 4.40 GHz. It comes with a cooler out of the box, and you do not need a high-end motherboard to unlock the full potential of the CPU.

You can spend the money you saved towards faster memory, which chipsets like the B560 can now take advantage of compared to the previous generation, where you needed a Z-Series motherboard to take advantage of such features. This is a locked CPU, so you will not be doing any overclocking, but that should not be an issue keeping in mind that this is a mid-range CPU.

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is a great alternative, but we have not included it again as we have already included it as one of the best overall CPUs you can buy right now.


Best Budget CPUs

If you want a budget-friendly option to pair with something like the GTX 1050 Ti or the GTX 1660, then the following are the processors that we can recommend:

AMD Ryzen 3 3300X

  • 4 Cores / 8 Threads
  • Clock speed: 3.8ghz
  • Turbo Clock speed: 4.3ghz
  • Socket: AM4
  • Cache: 16mb
AMD Ryzen 3 3300x
Best Budget CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 3300X

Pros

  • Budget Gaming CPU Winner
  • High Core Clock Speed

Cons

  • Bad choice for video editing
  • Low cache

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The AMD Ryzen 3 3300X is an impressive little CPU that features 4 cores and 8 threads. That might not seem like much if you compare it to other CPUs in this article, but it is enough for 1080p gaming and will run pretty much any game at 60 FPS paired with a decent GPU such as the Nvidia GTX 1650 or AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT.
This is a third-generation CPU, so the architecture is a bit old, but at $149, it is excellent value for money. It has a base clock speed of 3.8 GHz and can boost it to 4.8 GHz. In addition, it comes with the AMD Wraith Stealth cooler out of the box, which is all that you are going to need to cool this CPU.

It uses the AM4 socket, which means that down the line, you can upgrade to something like the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G or the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X without having to change your motherboard.

The AMD Ryzen 3 3300X manages to trade blows with the more expensive Intel 9400F in games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, GTAV, and CS: GO. It is also faster in Cinebench R20, and the Mozilla Firefox compile test.


AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

  • 6 Cores / 12 Threads
  • Clock speed: 3.7ghz
  • Turbo Clock speed: 4.4ghz
  • Socket: AM4
  • Cache: 16mb
Alternative: AMD Ryzen 5 5600G

Pros

  • Great APU for budget builds
  • Will run many games
  • Ok for basic content creation

Cons

  • More powerful CPU choices

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Graphics cards are costly right now, provided that you can even find one. That makes things very difficult for gamers. That is where the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G comes in. This is not a CPU but an APU. This means that it comes with powerful graphics cores.

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600G has 6 CPU cores and 12 threads with a base clock of 3.9 GHz and a boost clock of 4.4 GHz, but it also has 7 Radeon graphics cores that run at 1900 MHz. That might not seem like much compared to dedicated graphics cards, but you will be surprised how well this APU runs games.

The APU can run Minecraft at 1080p max settings with an average FPS of 153. Turn up the resolution to 4K, and the APU can average 86 FPS. It runs Valorant at 1080p with max settings at 197 FPS. Turn the resolution up to 1440p, and you get 148 FPS. CS: GO at 1080p with medium settings runs at 114 FPS and max settings you get 88 FPS.

Rainbow Six Siege is also a very popular game, and the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G can run the game with an average FPS of 106 at 1080p with low settings. Turn the settings up to ultra, and you get 77 FPS on average.

On average, you can get 120 FPS in DOTA 2 at 1080p lowest settings, but you can turn that up to max settings and get 56 FPS. The APU can even run Overwatch at 1080p with ultra settings with an average FPS of 67.

So the AMD Ryzen 5 5600G is a very compelling APU that performs well in modern games. You will not be able to run games like Cyberpunk 2077 on it, but you will be able to run popular competitive games. It comes with the AMD Wraith Stealth cooler out of the box, which is all that you are going to need to cool this CPU.

Avatar for Andy Cresswell
Andy Cresswell
Andy is the Founder & Editor of PerformancePSU with over 25 years of experience building custom PCs, watercooling and overclocking. When his thirst for more speed is under control, he is a programmer and father of one.
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